Alpines - Strange Company (independent)
"All songs are cliches" proclaims Alpines singer/songwriter Jon Ericson on the band's debut EP Strange Company. The irony here though is that although Alpines' Brit-pop influences are not difficult to detect, the band never resorts to cliches. Ericson takes a more subtle approach with his songwriting rather than trying to hit the listener over the head with quick, catchy hooks. So if the current state of catch-phrase songwriting that seems to be monopolizing the mainstream airwaves is getting on your nerves (like it is mine) then Strange Company is certainly worth a listen. It is the sort of album whose songs are enjoyable on the first listen but become more appealing and compelling with repeated listens.
While Ericson is the band's main songwriter, this album certainly has the feel of a full band effort. Much in the same way Andy Summers and Stewart Copeland left their trademark playing on Sting's best songs, the other members of Alpines flavor Ericson's songs with some very strong performances.
The band's rhythm section (drummer Dave Zerio and bassist Rich Nowak) provide a solid, tight foundation for the songs with Zerio's drumming often recalling Manu Katche's work with Peter Gabriel. Guitarist Rich DeVito shines as well. Rather than trying to monopolize the sound with in-your-face solos or heavy power chords, DeVito's guitar work provides a good melodic counterpoint to Ericson's melodies.
Although this Connecticut band has yet to strike a major label deal, the sound of their independent debut is quite polished. Alpines' strong arrangements, soaring melodies and intelligent lyrics are sure to appeal to fans of Keane, Morrissey, early U2, Coldplay, Crowded House and Tommy Keene. Clearly a band to look out for in 2007.
Rob Farrish, WESU 88.1 FM